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25 July 2020

Front Line Defenders statement on the death of human rights defender Azimjan Askarov

On July 25 2020, human rights defender Azimjan Askarov died in Kyrgyzstan at penal colony №47 where he had been transferred a day before for medical examination.

Azimjan Askarov had been sick for two weeks. His lawyer, Valeryan Vakhitov, managed to visit Askarov at the colony on July 22 and reported that the human rights defender was in critical condition. Two days after the lawyer’s visit, Azimjan Askarov was transferred to the penal colony №47 for medical examination. Kyrgyz human rights defenders demanded access of independent professional doctors to the colony to examine and treat Askarov but access was denied.

“I had the honour to meet Azimjan Askarov in prison and he was a man of great integrity and dignity,” said Andrew Anderson, Front Line Defenders Executive Director, “our heartfelt sympathy and solidarity goes to Azimjan’s family and friends and to all human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan.”

In 2012, actor Martin Sheen presented Azimjan Askarov at Voices, a public event in Dublin to raise awareness about HRDs.

Azimjan Askarov spent 25 years documenting human rights abuses in Kyrgyzstan. He was arrested on 16 June 2010 following violent clashes the same month between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in south Kyrgyzstan, in which more than 400 people were killed. He was tortured and condemned to life imprisonment following an unfair trial at which the main pieces of evidence presented against him were confessions obtained as a result of torture and the testimonies of policemen involved in the events.

On 21 April 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee found that the Kyrgyz authorities had arbitrarily detained, tortured, held in “inhumane” conditions, and “prevented [Askarov] from adequately preparing his trial defence.” In a statement, the UN experts called on Kyrgyzstan to immediately release him and quash his life sentence.

Front Line Defenders featured Azimjan in its Olympics campaign in 2012.